Breaking news: How the war impacts Ukraine’s independent media – Al Jazeera English
On Sundays, freelance journalist Tetiana Bezruk would open her laptop and check the court schedule in Kyiv for the week.
A reporter on high-profile anti-corruption cases for Ukrainian and international media, including the investigation into crimes committed against protesters by police during Ukraine’s 2014 Euromaidan revolution, she would scour the list of hearings for potential stories.
But since February 2022, when Russia’s full-scale invasion began, Bezruk has not been to court.
Now, she is a war reporter.
“I decided to cover this war because it is in every aspect of my life,” she told Al Jazeera.
The past year has been an education in front-line reporting, including working from Kharkiv, Dnipro and Kherson, where she witnessed heavy shelling.
“Never in all my assignments have I been so scared physically,” she said.
In December, Kherson oblast was liberated and Bezruk spent time with survivors of the Russian occupation.
“I counted three or four buildings in the village that weren’t destroyed or had their roofs intact,” she said. “These trips hurt me a lot.”
Practical and safety considerations have been learned on the job, such as paying attention to exit routes and having access to a car – crucial for extracting yourself from the front line if something goes wrong.
With its Kyiv office affected by missile attacks on the city, staff at business publication Liga also became war reporters overnight.
The title focused only on war reporting for several months after the full-scale Russian invasion.
“We didn’t have experience covering the war or any special training [at the beginning],” says Yulia Bankova, Liga’s editor-in-chief.
The team quickly sourced helmets and protective equipment from international organisations, learning how to cover war “on the job”.
Bankova also worked with experienced, insured freelance journalists for some front-line reporting.
For Ukrainian journalists with little or no war reporting experience, safety and security is of paramount importance.
According to Ukraine’s Institute of Mass Information, 45 Ukrainian media workers have been killed as a result of the full-scale invasion by Russia and 21 journalists working in Ukraine have been captured and kidnapped by Russian forces.
Internews, a non-profit founded in San Francisco that supports international, independent media, was initially focused on the immediate safety needs of journalists, such as relocating reporters from areas that had suddenly become a front line.
With its Ukrainian partners, Internews brought about 250 flak jackets and helmets as well as 550 tactical first aid kits into the country.
A year later, its work now includes replacing lost or damaged equipment and providing power banks and solar power batteries to help sustain media operations during power outages caused by Russian attacks on electricity and power stations. It has also received requests for satellite internet to help newsrooms stay online.
Independent investigative and culture outlet Zaborona has moved its Kyiv office to a smaller space, so 10 to 12 team members have better access to electricity.
Editor-in-chief Katerina Sergatskova co-founded the 2402 Fund to provide safety and communication equipment and safety, security and reporting training to Ukrainian journalists.
‘Lack of realistic funding’
For many Ukrainian media, there is “a lack of realistic funding to operate” and report on a battlefield dominated by “surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence”, an international media safety expert who requested anonymity, who has worked in Ukraine for many years, told Al Jazeera.
And according to Gillian McCormack, who leads the Internews team in Ukraine, “A year on, you are also looking at high levels of burnout and stress.”
One Liga team member rescued his wife from occupied Severodonetsk and another spent at least 10 days with his family in a bomb shelter in Chernihiv.
“Almost everyone has their own tragic experience,” said Bankova.
Therapy sessions for staff have been held to address the psychological toll of living with and reporting on the war.
Freelancer Bezruk says being a journalist helps her with the psychological toll. “You can communicate your thoughts; you don’t put it inside of you. You put out your fear, your anxiety.”
As for the commercial aspect of Ukraine’s media industry, an estimated 233 outlets in Ukraine have been forced to close temporarily or completely as a result of the war, whether because of seized or destroyed offices, occupation or economic challenges.
“Right now, it’s difficult to survive,” says McCormack of Internews. “The ad market has taken a real hit.”
Bankova said Liga lost all its advertising in one day – approximately 65 percent of its revenue. It is now heavily reliant on funding from grants and some support from reader subscriptions and donations.
At the same time, in a country dominated by state-run news channels and TV channels owned by oligarchs, Ukraine’s independent media have experienced operating under pressure while holding the powerful to account.
With business models devastated by war and a workforce thinned by safety concerns or as journalists enlist, experts are concerned about the future of the sector.
“During the war, it’s even more important [to have independent media] because Ukraine has a reputation for being corrupt,” said Bankova. “Only the Ukrainian media can cover this corruption.”
The Ukrainian media market has also lost “quality journalists” to international media covering the war, said Bankova.
“Foreign journalists have a big team and insurance, but Ukrainian journalists are not as well protected and do dangerous work on the front line.”
In March 2022, Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova was killed while working with Fox News.
At the time, concerns were raised that Kuvshynova’s death had been overlooked because an international colleague had died and another was injured in the same attack.
Though treatment of Ukrainian journalists by international media has improved since the beginning of the war, Bankova said she is repeatedly asked by foreign reporters whether she can remain objective being Ukrainian.
“It’s black and white,” she said. “As journalists, we focus on documenting facts and people’s stories, not personal feelings.”
Freelance journalist Bezruk has worked as a “fixer” for international media and said she learned a lot from foreign colleagues with war reporting experience.
In the Kyiv region, she saw mass graves for the first time and watched how a foreign colleague approached the relatives of victims, maintaining professionalism while also dealing with the horror of experiencing the situation firsthand.
Involving Ukrainian journalists in international coverage of the war can provide context and help international media avoid Russian propaganda and disinformation, said Bankova and Zaborona’s Sergatskova.
“We know any city we come to,” said Sergatskova. “We know the history of the buildings destroyed. Russia has been our neighbour our whole lives.”
Unlike international news, Ukraine’s media, in particular local outlets, provide crucial, localised safety information and allow internally displaced people to keep track of home news. It can also provide a lifeline of connection for those living under occupation, said McCormack.
Despite operational challenges, threats to physical and mental safety, and Russia’s alleged targeting of journalists and independent media, Ukraine’s journalists keep going.
“People say they don’t see the sense in being a journalist any more. I’ve never had these thoughts,” said Sergatskova.
“A journalist is one of the most important figures in the war because we can show what is happening. Russia doesn’t want us to see the atrocities it commits. That’s why it’s so important we continue. We have to record it.”
Japan media guide – Yahoo News Canada
Japan’s broadcasting scene is technologically advanced and lively, with public and commercial media in keen competition. Traditional media are more influential than news websites.
Five TV companies, including public NHK, run national terrestrial networks. Most of NHK’s funding comes from licence fees. Many millions of viewers subscribe to satellite and cable pay TV.
News, drama, variety shows and sport – especially baseball – have big audiences. Imported TV shows are not widely shown, but Western influences are apparent in domestic TV fare.
Newspapers are influential and highly trusted. National dailies sell in their millions, boosted by afternoon and evening editions. Some charge for online access.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that “tradition and business interests often prevent journalists from completely fulfilling their role as watchdogs”.
Under the traditional kisha kurabu (press club) system, institutions such as government ministries and corporate organizations have restricted the release of news to journalists and media outlets with membership in their clubs, says NGO Freedom House.
But it notes that in recent years online media and weekly news magazines have challenged the daily papers’ dominance with more aggressive reporting.
Line, co-developed by Japan and Korea, is by far the leading social and messaging application with over 94 million users. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are widely used.
There were 118.6 million internet users by July 2022, comprising 93% of the population (Internetworldstats.com).
NHK – public, operates news/speech-based Radio 1, cultural/educational Radio 2, classical music-based FM Radio, external service Radio Japan
Inter FM – Tokyo commercial music station
J-Wave – Tokyo commercial music station
Tokyo FM – Tokyo commercial network
TBS Radio – operated by Tokyo Broadcasting System
Ecuador opens investigation into explosives sent to news media – Al Jazeera English
Local journalists report receiving envelopes filled with small explosives, disguised as commonplace electronic devices.
Journalists at various news outlets in Ecuador have been sent envelopes containing electronic devices fitted with explosives, the attorney general’s office said on Monday, adding it has opened a terrorism investigation.
The envelopes all had similar characteristics and the same contents and will therefore be investigated jointly, the attorney general’s office said in a statement, without naming the media organisations affected.
One of the devices partly exploded at Ecuavisa television in Guayaquil when journalist Lenin Artieda plugged the device into his computer. He suffered minor injuries, according to police.
“It’s a military-type explosive, but very small capsules,” said Xavier Chango, the national head of forensic science, referring to the explosive sent to Ecuavisa.
The police carried out a controlled detonation of a device sent to the news department of TC Television, also in Guayaquil, prosecutors said earlier on Monday.
Fundamedios, a regional freedom of expression advocacy group, said a third television station and radio outlet in Quito had also received envelopes with explosives.
The government said it would defend freedom of expression in the country.
“Any attempt to intimidate journalism and freedom of expression is a loathsome action that should be punished with all the rigor of justice,” it said in a statement.
President Guillermo Lasso has blamed rising violence, including within the prison system, on competition between drug trafficking gangs for territory and control.
Ecuador is used as a transit point for cocaine being moved to the United States and Europe.
Television channel Teleamazonas said one of its journalists had received an anonymous envelope on Thursday and — upon opening it — had discovered a device, which the police confirmed contained explosives.
Parliamentary committee summons Mark Zuckerberg over Meta’s threat to block news
OTTAWA — Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is being summoned by a parliamentary committee for the third time in four years — this time over the tech company’s threat to block news from Canadians on its social-media platforms.
The decision comes a week after the company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, announced it would block news if the Liberal government’s Online News Act passes in its current form.
The legislation, also known as Bill C-18, would require tech giants to pay Canadian media companies for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.
The House of Commons heritage committee agreed on Monday to summon Zuckerberg, the company’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, and the head of Meta Canada, Chris Saniga, to appear at an upcoming meeting.
It also agreed to request internal and external documents from Meta and from Google, which recently blocked news access for some Canadian users to test out a possible response to Bill C-18 — with some critics calling the committee’s request a violation of privacy and a targeted “shakedown.”
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Zuckerberg has repeatedly ignored summons from Ottawa before, first in 2019 when an ethics committee was studying users’ privacy on social media platforms, and again in 2021 when the heritage committee was studying an Australian law similar to Bill C-18.
The House of Commons doesn’t have the power to summon individuals who live outside of Canada, but it can enforce the summons if they ever set foot in the country, a move that would be considered extremely rare.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is expressing concerns that the committee’s decision to seek internal documents is “undemocratic,” in part because of concerns that third-party communication from other organizations could be handed over to the committee.
“Requiring and compelling that information to be shared with them in a public forum doesn’t even meet the government’s own standards around access to information that they need to provide to the public,” said Matthew Holmes, the chamber’s senior vice-president of policy and government relations.
Its CEO, Perrin Beatty, also penned a letter to the committee on Sunday, saying the move poses a serious threat to the privacy of Canadians, especially those who oppose the government’s Online News Act.
“Every individual and every organization in Canada has the right to decide whether it supports Bill C-18 or any other piece of legislation that comes before Parliament. They should be free to do so without fear of retribution for their views,” Beatty said.
Scotty Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, also expressed concern over Ottawa’s request for internal documents.
“This feels like a gratuitous shakedown targeted at the U.S.,” Greenwood said.
She also criticized the timing of the motion, which was passed three days before U.S. President Joe Biden is set to meet with Canadian parliamentarians.
“If the roles were reversed and the U.S. legislature was targeting Canadian companies, there would be an outrage in Canada,” said Greenwood.
Her council held roundtable discussions on Friday with senior U.S. government officials about Biden’s upcoming visit and his agenda, she said.
“Right across the board, our members are concerned with the targeting of American companies.”
Still, members of Parliament on the committee have decided to pursue even further study of what they are calling abuses of power by foreign tech giants.
“This is not only about C-18,” said Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, who introduced the motion for the new study on Monday. It was supported by other Liberal MPs, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, while Conservative MPs on the committee abstained from the vote.
It will speak to “larger issues of how very large companies use anti-(competitive), monopolistic tactics to seek to influence parliaments to meet their desires,” he said.
“This is not about whether C-18 is the right approach, or the wrong approach, but it’s about how tech companies are tackling that and other similar laws around the world.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2023.
Meta funds a limited number of fellowships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.
Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press
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